The M47 Dragon, known as the FGM-77 during development, is an American shoulder-fired, man-portable anti-tank guided missile system. It was phased out of U.S. military service in 2001, in favor of the newer FGM-148 Javelin system.
An M47 Dragon, shown here with its daytime tracker attached.
|Place of origin||United States|
|Used by||See Operators|
|Wars||1982 Lebanon War|
Invasion of Grenada
Western Sahara War
Yemeni Civil War (2015-present)
Conflict in Najran, Jizan and Asir
|Designed||March 3, 1966|
|Manufacturer||McDonnell Douglas, Raytheon|
|Unit cost||$13,000 (standard)|
$51,000 (with night tracking system)
|No. built||7,000 launchers, 33,000 missiles (U.S. Army)|
17,000 missiles (U.S. Marine Corps)
250,000 missiles (Total)
|Variants||Dragon II, Super Dragon, Saeghe 1 and 2|
|Length||1,154 mm (45.4 in)|
|Effective firing range||1,000 meters, minimum 75 meters|
|Maximum firing range||1,000–1,500 meters|
|Speed||200 m/s (660 ft/s)|
|SACLOS system sights|
The M47 Dragon uses a wire-guidance system in concert with a high explosive anti-tank warhead and was capable of defeating armored vehicles, fortified bunkers, main battle tanks, and other hardened targets. While it was primarily created to defeat the Soviet Union's T-55, T-62, and T-72 tanks, it saw use well into the 1990s, seeing action in the Persian Gulf War. The U.S. military officially retired the weapon in 2001. The United States destroyed the last of its stocks of the missile in 2009. The weapon system remains in active service with other militaries around the world.
Used by the U.S. Army, the U.S. Marine Corps, as well as many foreign militaries, the M47 Dragon was first fielded in January 1975 to U.S. Army soldiers stationed in mainland Europe. The effective range of the Dragon was about 1,000 metres (3,300 ft), with the missile traveling 100 metres (330 ft) per second, guided by an infrared sight. The operator had to continue to track the missile to its target, which exposed him to enemy fire.
The principles of flight and guidance were interesting. The first oddity was the delay between snapping the trigger and the ignition of the launch motor. This was due to a chemical battery charging the initiator circuit (the operator could hear a rising whine similar to the whine made by early integrated flash cameras when charging the flash circuit). This usually led to the operator tensing up in anticipation of the sudden explosion from the launcher that he knew was coming. The missile was discharged from the launcher tube by a "launch motor", which was a rocket motor that completely expended itself within the tube so as not to injure the operator with exhaust gas. The missile coasted away from the operator and a burning infrared flare was ignited at the rear of the missile.
After the missile was about 30 to 50 metres (100 to 160 ft) from the gunner, the missile was propelled forward and guided towards the target by three rows of thrusters aligned longitudinally along the missile body. The rocket spiralled as it moved forward, and the thrusters were fired in pairs to move the missile forward as well as keep the missile on target. These were activated by the sight controller which sent signals from the sight mechanism to the missile along the wire which spooled out behind the missile and remained connected to the sight. The operator kept the sight crosshairs on the target; the sight tracked the infrared flare and sent corrections to the missile service motor to bring the flight of the missile to the aim point. The service charges were fired as needed both to keep the missile correcting toward the aim point and to keep it up and moving forward. A missile moving towards a stationary target and tracked by a steady gunner would fire the thrusters about every .5 to 1 second, resulting in its signature 'popping' sound as it moved downrange. If the operator over-corrected his aim point beyond the service motor's capability to keep up, the missile grounded itself. Conversely, if the guidance wire broke, the missile would fire its rockets rapidly, sending the missile into a rapid ascent. This was a recoilless weapon—the launcher did not "kick" per se when fired—but the sudden loss of the 30 pounds (14 kg) missile weight from the shoulder caused many soldiers to flinch badly enough to lose track of the target, resulting in a missile grounding.
The M47 Dragon was not particularly popular with U.S. soldiers. Because of the missile's relatively short range and signature 'popping' sound as the missile was propelled towards the target, M47 Dragon crews were expected to take heavy casualties in the event hostilities broke out between the United States and the Soviet Union in Europe.
Designed and upgraded from Dragon in 1985 when its penetration effectiveness was increased.
Upgraded from Dragon II in 1990, it was capable of penetrating 18 inches (460 mm) of armor at a maximum effective range of 1,500 metres (1,600 yd).
The launcher system of the M47 Dragon consists of a smoothbore fiberglass tube, breech/gas generator, tracker, bipod, battery, sling, and forward and aft shock absorbers. In order to fire the weapon, non-integrated day or night sights must be attached. While the launcher itself is expendable, the sights can be removed and reused.
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